DIY tech – from kindergarten to Kickstarter

Brandon Lewis, Associate Editor at Embedded Computing, recently noted that the current popularity of the Do It Yourself (DIY) community is driving a wide range of open hardware platforms and offering Makers easy access to embedded development.

“Outside of hobbyist toys and educational devices, however, ‘hacker’ boards are increasing performance and I/O flexibility, and have become viable options for professional product development,” Lewis wrote.

According to Lewis, the Maker Movement is quickly gaining traction in the education and hobbyist markets with open hardware boards advertising a “less-is-more” architecture at a price to match with DIY boards like the Atmel-powered Arduino. The boards allows easy exploring for novice devs and sufficient flexibility for advanced hackers to create some pretty remarkable projects.

“Outside of the low barrier to market entry presented by these low-cost development platforms, Maker boards are being implemented in commercial products because their wide I/O expansion capabilities make them applicable for virtually any application, from robotics and industrial control to automotive and home automation systems,” Lewis explained.

Brock Craft, author of “Arduino Projects for Dummies,” recently expressed similar sentiments about Atmel-powered Arduino boards. In addition to the DIY Maker Movement, says Craft, Arduino is wildly popular in the educational community, with science and computing teachers in secondary schools using the platform to teach kids the principles of programming and computational thinking.

“[Of course], Arduino is also used in colleges and universities, [where] they are often found in design programs, particularly in product design, because Arduinos can quickly be used to prototype products that do physical things – like toasters or dispensers or remote controls, for example,” Craft told ItPortalPro.

“It is also widely used in digital arts programmes for making interactive artwork, music, and performances. [Yes], there have been similar products on the market for many years and education curricula have used other alternatives. But what makes Arduino different – and is driving teachers to use them – is that Arduinos are easy to use. And if they need help, it’s easy for teachers and students to get it in the extensive online communities.”

In addition, Craft confirmed that Arduino boards are deployed throughout the corporate world, as the hardware is being used by designers, architects and engineers for prototyping purposes.

“It’s very easy to try out design by building a prototype so that they can see what solutions work and toss out those that don’t. This is much easier to do early in the design process before more money has been spent on bringing an idea to fruition; Arduino can play a key role here,” he continued. “Just a simple example – I know a lighting company that recently used Arduino to control dimmable lighting effects for architectural lighting products they were developing. Using an Arduino helped them try out their ideas in an afternoon, rather than waiting weeks.”

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